WNBA … Fantastic!: By Sloane Martin


In the aftermath of my WNBA thrashing of earlier this week, many people were pretty pissed. One of those was Sloane Martin, who called me an idiot. According to her Twitter account, Sloane is a “College student. Feminist. Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A affiliate of the MN Twins) production intern this summer. Aspiring on-air talent.”

Anyhow, I’ve invited her to blog her support of the WNBA here. And I’m thankful she accepted …

When I think of the WNBA, I think of intimidating, solid 6-foot-4 women with freak-of-nature athleticism, vision and speed.

When mainstream sports fans thinks of the WNBA, they think freaks. They think slow, unathletic, masculine, unattractive freaks.

A WNBA player to me is someone who has most likely obtained a college degree. She sacrifices her entire life for the game by playing year-round in rural Turkey for seven months a year to make a living.

A WNBA player to the mainstream sports fan can’t dunk like Dwight Howard or fly like LeBron James, making the women’s game not worth a damn.

And that’s why I’m left constantly trying to stick for this game, for this league. If you don’t like it, that’s fine—I just expect sports fans to recognize the skill and basketball intelligence these women possess. I don’t care for tennis or college football, but I respect the athletes involved. A Ryan Miller sprawling save is just as beautiful as a Diana Taurasi cross-over step-back three—the best on Earth doing what they do. A Tamika Catchings drive to the hoop gives you chills like Whitney Houston singing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV.

When people criticize the WNBA’s ratings, attendance, and revenue, I’m reminded of the NHL. A few years ago, there was no market for hockey. The almighty Stanley Cup was getting ratings under 2. Personally, I knew nothing about hockey before I moved to Western New York from Southern California. That was until I saw the best of the best play. No one, including myself, cared about hockey, but the Vancouver Olympics got me hooked. Just because no one cares about women’s basketball now, doesn’t mean people never will.

Like any sports fan, I enjoy competition. Another similarity is that my sports career is sadly over, forcing me to live vicariously through my favorite athletes. I’m proud to follow WNBA players and look up to them. I hope other young girls realize this, too. Yeah, I’m going the role model route, but the importance of good role models is very important during female adolescence (trust me, I’ve been through it.) The fact that WNBA players are professional athletes proves that girls don’t have to conform and that it’s ok to take on the ‘masculine’ traits of sports.

Another plus for the WNBA, basketball is not pretty. Well, the game itself is (especially when the Phoenix Mercury play—highly recommended), but it’s also gritty and painful and aggressive. Exactly the way women are not expected to be and I love that basketball is the antithesis of femininity. This isn’t softball with glitter make-up and giant bows. This isn’t lacrosse or hockey where physical contact is outlawed. This is basketball with the same rims, same floor, played differently.

I’ll admit that a portion of my support of the WNBA is due to indignation. It’s like I give my vote to Ralph Nader just to screw the mainstream parties and all their minions. I don’t want for it to be this way. I want to love the league solely because of the quality of the game and the players, not just out of spite. But this is the way it is—and until things are fair (or try to even out), I will keep harsh anti-WNBA opinions as a chip on my shoulder.

For now, the WNBA represents a perfect niche where I don’t have to deal with boorish sports fans and interact with people who genuinely know the game. But I hope that the league gets more mainstream support. I want these women to get positive, consistent recognition and coverage for their efforts. It’s an issue of fairness, and the way this league is treated now is not fair. Whether that happens will remain to be seen, but in the meantime, these women deserve respect at the very least.